‘Conscious of privacy,’ Edmonton police will use facial recognition tech mainly with previous criminals

Edmonton police said Wednesday that while facial recognition technology hasn’t been implemented for the service yet, as it rolls out, its main use will be identifying already-established criminals who are within a database.

“I think the biggest concern is that we’re going to be taking this technology and just running it over video feeds and just looking for people,” EPS information technology Supt. Warren Driechel said.

“The reality is that we’re very conscious of the privacy aspects of this. We understand the concerns.”

Driechel said the technology will try to match video and picture evidence to mug shots of previous criminals.

“We’re using it in response to a criminal event… We’re getting so much video and picture these days in relation to those.”

A small group of officers will also be trained to use the program and confirm the information — meaning that the identification process won’t be reliant on technology alone.

“We’re basically using this technology literally just to search mug shot data that we’ve collected, again, from people who have been charged with a criminal offense,” said Devin Laforce from the EPS investigative support division, which is the team that will work with the tech.

Officers will also use the tech to confirm identities of arrested criminals, similar to fingerprinting. Driechel said an example of its use in that case would be if someone tries to use a fake ID when under arrest.

The exact company that will be awarded the contract could not be announced as the process is still in the negotiation phase.

Edmonton Police Service is not the first to move towards this type of technology. In 2014, police in Calgary were the first in Canada to implement facial recognition.

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